Effective Mobilization During a Natural Disaster: Retail Technology Can Be an Important Team Member

Emma Stevens

In just over a month, we’ve seen three very powerful and destructive hurricanes devastate communities in Texas, Florida and several Caribbean islands, not to mention the most recent earthquake in Mexico. But, out of these disasters, we’ve seen lot of good news and plenty of examples of humanitarian efforts, especially by corporate America. Notable retailers such as Walmart, Amazon, Starbucks, Target, HEB, Kohl’s and so many more have opened up their purse strings to help those impacted by the storms. To ensure that supplies were delivered where they were needed most, Home Depot and Lowes have already sent thousands of truckloads to its stores in the path of the hurricanes.

In addition to retailers giving back, we have also seen retailers utilize their existing infrastructures (stores), social media and other technologies to help, such as:

  • Verizon stores in the Houston area allowed residents to visit locations to make free calls, use the Internet and charge their devices.

  • Walmart activated an Emergency Operations Center at its headquarters to help coordinate donations and volunteer efforts with our Walmart locations – not to mention also sending emergency trucks carrying bottled water and supplies.

  • Kroger Supermarket established a mobile Kroger Pharmacy to help refill customers’ prescriptions, provide immunizations and perform blood pressure and glucose screenings.

In the event of natural disasters, it is critical for retailers to brave the elements, often with limited staff, in order to serve their customers at a time in need. That is where a solid store infrastructure, with effective retail technology tools on hand, can help.

Through the use of dynamic pricing, powered by electronic shelf labels for example, retailers can provide consistent, localized pricing and promotions across affected stores during any crisis – ensuring that costs stay the same, or as needed, to lower the costs of essential products. ESLs can also serve as a critical inventory tool. By displaying inventory levels on labels, store associates and managers can refresh important stock during a natural disaster, such as bottled water or batteries, as it sells and have visibility over what’s available to sell in the back of the store. Having the ability to price and promote appropriately during a crisis strengthens a retailer’s relationship within the community.

According to pricing strategy consultant, Rafi Mohammed, an organization’s pricing strategy and how their prices affect customers during their time of need, are essential components to the company’s brand. The last thing retailers need is their loyal customers to view them as taking advantage of tragedy.

“Tough times present opportunities for companies to reinforce the message that they care for their customers,” said Mohammed. “This involves maintaining, or even reducing, prices, as well as hustling to increase the supply of essential products to better serve customers. Reducing prices during a crisis is a low-cost tactic to strengthen ties with customers and signal to new customers what your company stands for.”

If you’d like to learn more on how you can help affected communities, here’s a good list of where to begin.

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Our Electronic Shelf Labels (ESLs) bring the shelf-edge into the Internet of Things era, helping to create shopping experiences that are more engaging, rewarding and personalised – and profitable. We help retailers optimise sales and margin at the shelf-edge, where 90% of purchases are still made.

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